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Keith Ballard the latest Vancouver Canuck defenceman to suffer injury

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks defence has been like a revolving door recently with Keith Ballard being the latest player to suffer an injury.

Ballard will have an MRI done on the right knee he hurt in Monday's 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. He should know Wednesday the extent of the injury.

The 28-year-old from Baudette, Minn., looked upbeat when he walked into the Canucks dressing room Tuesday without any crutches. He wasn't sure how bad the knee was.

"I feel better today than I did last night," said the six-year NHL veteran. "Right now I walked. If I was to do anything else, who knows.

"I think they are pretty hesitant to say anything without the MRI. I don't want to get thinking one way or the other, then have an MRI show something different. Until we get the picture done, I don't think there is any reason to speculate one way or the other."

Ballard's right leg was twisted when he fell awkwardly when pulled down from behind by Ottawa winger Milan Michalek in the first three minutes of Monday's game. He lay writhing in pain holding his leg, then headed straight for the Vancouver dressing room and did not return.

A photograph in one of the city's newspapers showed Ballard yelling in pain with his ankle collapsed underneath him and his knee twisted at an obscene angle.

Ballard was able to joke about the picture.

"It probably looks worse than it was," he said. "I don't think I could bend like that.

"I'm not the most flexible person. Pretty impressive. I don't think bodies are supposed to move like that."

There was a few anxious moments during practice Tuesday when defenceman Andrew Alberts was hit in the throat by a puck.

Alberts spent several minutes on the ice, but then skated to the bench. He later said he was all right.

"The puck deflected in my throat," Alberts said. "I couldn't breath for a while.

"It was a scary moment but I'm fine."

Alberts returned to Vancouver's lineup Monday after missing right games with a sprained shoulder. Fellow blue-liner Aaron Rome got back in the lineup Friday night after missing eight games with a knee injury.

The Canucks have also lost defenceman Alex Edler to back surgery. Lee Sweatt, who was brought up from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL as a replacement, suffered a fracture blocking a shot during practice and will be out six-to-eight weeks.

On a positive note Sami Salo, who has missed the entire season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, is currently on a minor-league conditioning stint with Manitoba. There's a chance he could rejoin the Canucks this week.

Mike Gillis, the Canucks general manager, was frustrated with the play where Ballard was hurt, calling it a slewfoot.

"That's the type of play that players themselves really frown upon," said Gillis. "It's up to them to police it.

"Jeff Tambellini had the same thing happen to him earlier in the season and nothing was done about it. We have to accept it and move on."

Ballard, who hasn't seen a replay of the incident, couldn't say if the play was dirty or not.

"I don't know," he shrugged. "At the time we were kind of battling for position. It's hard to say for me without watching it again."

It's been a tough year for Ballard, who the Canucks acquired from Florida in a trade last June. He had hip surgery during the summer, then suffered a concussion earlier this season.

In 43 games with Vancouver he has two goals and five points while averaging 15:38 of ice time.

Gillis said the string of injuries on Vancouver's defence could be because of the style the Canucks play.

"We put a lot of pressure on our defence to retrieve pucks, move the puck quickly and participate in the offence," said Gillis.

"In the course of a game they skate a lot. When you play that way guys get tired and that's when you get injuries. That's the style of play we think is successful and that's what we are going to do."

Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo missed practice with the flu.

Cory Schneider is scheduled to start Wednesday when the Canucks play the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena.

Coach Alain Vigneault said the decision to start Schneider was made before Luongo became sick.



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